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Abu ʿUbayd Al-Qāsim Bin Sallām Al-Harawī (d. 224H) on Contagion

Posted by Abu Iyaad
Written December 2020
Filed under Tawḥīd

Imām al-Baghawī (رحمه الله) said, with respect to the ḥadīth about not passing sick camels by healthy ones:[1]

Abū ʿUbayd mentioned this meaning and said:

And some people have carried [the ḥadīth] to mean that [the prohibition] is due to fear for the healthy on account of the one with the disease, and this the most evil of what the ḥadīth has been carried to mean, because it facilitates the way for believing in omens. And how can the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) not prohibit from this belief in omens [as it relates to contagion] while he [also] says: ‘[Belief in] omens is shirk.’ However, its angle in my view, and Allāh knows best, is that there comes to these healthy [camels] through Allāh’s decree what came to those [sick] ones [of disease], and so the owner of the healthy camels thinks that the sick ones passed the disease to them, and thus falls into sin.

Abū ʿUbayd (رحمه الله) explained that the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) intended to prevent, through this particular guidance, the observational error of confusing coincidence with causation from occurring because it is the basis for superstition and harbouring of omens. Further, that to assert that Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) made these statements on the basis of fear of disease and contagion is to promote the very superstition and omens that the Mesenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was desiring to prevent, and that this is the most evil of interpretations.

Keep in mind that this speech of Abū ʿUbayd (رحمه الله) is in relation to actually sick people.

What then do you think if his likes saw perfectly healthy people keeping two metres away from each other fearing a disease that neither of the two parties have? Upon his view, He would not hesitate to label this madness (junūn) in addition to being superstition and omens.

Read the full PDF:

Abu ʿUbayd al-Qāsim bin Sallām al-Harawī (d. 224H) On Contagion and Omens
View PDF File
(24 pages)

Arabic Text:

1. Sharh al-Sunnah (al-Maktab al-Islāmī, Beirut: 1403H), 12/167 onwards.

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